Nigella Lawson Saves Pasta Water To Help Homemade Bread Rise

British celebrity and food personality Nigella Lawson told us years ago to save pasta water for bread. "It will help the bread's texture to rise," she tweeted in 2020. In the meantime, it's become clear that she was part of a growing chorus extolling the virtues of pasta water. To illustrate, consider this. Food & Wine ran a recent piece in which it proclaimed, "Pasta Water Is the Austerity Times It-Girl We All Need." 

Indeed, pasta water may be having a moment — and it can do a lot. Famously useful for helping pasta sauce cling to noodles like, uh, white on rice, pasta water is versatile and now, even trendy. Besides being the new star of things like Dirty Pasta Water Martinis, pasta water can create the base of a flavorful stock or broth, loosen thick sauces, soften legumes, and loads more. Reliable sources even suggest many uses for pasta water, such as using it as a hair conditioner or a foot soak for tired feet.

Gluten free pasta water might not work the same

"Quick message to all those making bread at the moment. Keep the water you've cooked potatoes or pasta in," tweeted Nigella Lawson in 2020. It's important to note that when we talk about pasta water, we mean water used to boil and cook pasta that does contain gluten. Gluten-free pasta will vary in the amount of starch it releases, so you'll meet a hitch in your plans when you try to use the leftover soup from your non-gluten pasta boils. 

Luckily, all is not lost. Adding a little cornstarch or another starchy substance to the water when preparing gluten-free pasta, or even plain water can create a reliable pasta water substitute. While the cornstarch trick might work as well as glutenous pasta water for sauces, Lawson didn't vouch for it in the tweet convo, so we say experiment at your own risk. 

When it comes to bread, there are a few reasons you may want to take Lawson's suggestion.

Soft or tough bread by personal preference

As previously mentioned, Nigella Lawson said that when baking bread, its texture and rise are helped by pasta water. For pizza dough and other lean doughs with little fat or sugar, pasta water can help give the crust a nice crispness, but for enriched bread, the results might just be a softer finished product. That's great — and certainly perfect for dinner — unless you're looking for tough bread to take into battle or chip an unsuspecting enemy's tooth on.

Lawson also offered some more advice, tweeting, "Taste it before adding though. If very salty, dilute it with fresh water and, obviously, leave any salt in recipe out." For those wondering how much salt in your water is sufficient, or even how much water is best, try using less water to boil your pasta. And remember not to add oil to your pasta water, either.